On Death

Death. If life is a b****, death is the ex that you will make you love it.

I remember my first encounter with death. I was only two when my Lola Corazon died. I felt it was like a dream. During the funeral, my cousin Irene and I were running around Lola Corazon’s coffin. One of my aunts remarked: “Hoy, wag niyo gawin yan, baka mainis si Lola.” (Hey, stop being so rowdy, or else Lola will get annoyed) At that exact moment, my cousin and I fell head first onto the carpet floor.

I remember Lola Corazon as if she were only asleep. I thought that she would wake up and tease me again with her dentures. But no, Lola did not wake up, as I threw a white rose into the hole six feet under. She was covered with soil, and I never saw her again.

The finality of death came to me when my aunt, Tita Lits, died of a cardiac event when I was about 9. The pious woman who told me the story of Marcelino Pan y Vino was taken, as the child was in the story, to a place we didn’t know. Though at that time, I still hoped that she would wake up from her slumber. I remember pointing out during the wake how condensate formed on the glass cover of her casket. I thought it was a sign that she was breathing. Of course, what did a child know about death?

And then my Lola Binay died. I knew then that death is final. As I knew it, it was the cessation of bodily functions that leads to the deterioration of a person’s body. As I saw it, it was a painful truth to swallow.

Then my cousin Mojo passed away just last year because of Dengue. And now, at 9:25 PM, my cousin, Ate Pau. She had sustained irreversible brain damage due to an inborn malformation in the blood vessels in her brain. She was placed on DNR, and allowed a peaceful passing.

As of the writing, I am currently handling a patient who is on DNR. She is an 80 year old woman who has congestive heart failure. She was initially managed aggressively by her doctors, but her body could not sustain recovery. When I first saw her, she was still responsive. Now, she lies lethargic, barely hanging on. Every time I enter that room, I feel a heavy feeling that makes me sad. It is just that I find it hard to accept the futility of life in the face of death.

As I was discussing this patient’s case to my clinical instructor, she asked me what my plans are for the client. Dumbfounded, I told her: “Ma’am, itatawid ko po ang pasyente.” (“Ma’am, I will try to save the patient.”) She asked me why I thought that way. I told her that I will not allow any patient to pass away under my watch. I will fight for my patient’s life, whatever the cost. Her voice was mellow as she told me if I considered what the patient wanted. “Everyone has the right to die.” She said. With that, I cried. I remember my Lola Binay from that kind old lady, and I associated fighting for her life with fighting for Lola’s. A life for another.

Yet everyone has to die.

Oh death, you cruel master… You old friend. I wish for peace for Ate Pau’s spirit.

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